PIC SPECIAL and REPORT: Relegation looms larger after Rocks are beaten by East Thurrock
It was not just a freezing afternoon that left the crowd cold at Nyewood Lane as Bognor fell to a two-goal defeat in an instantly-forgettable fixture that leaves relegation looming larger than ever.
Goals by 'the other Rocks' at the start and end of the game meant another defeat for Bognor, who remain ten points from safety and now have just ten games left to save themselves.
A long ball forward by Manny Adebowale was too much for returning striker Stefan Ljubicic early on for Bognor, who were playing their first game for three weeks following two weather-related postponements. A similar cross-field ball from the left by Keaton Wood saw Harvey Whyte running on to it but the ball went out of play.
Harry Honesty won the first corner of the day for East Thurrock. The short corner by Montel Ageymang to Reece Harris saw the latter swing the ball in but it was cleared. East Thurrock were enjoying a number of corners but the Rocks were dealing with them.
But, as has been the case on many occasions this season, the Rocks conceded the opening goal before the game had really got going. Six minutes had passed when Sam Higgins put the ball in nicely for Harris to slot in at the near post with a sharp header.
Soon Sami El-Abd gave the ball away cheaply and Higgins hit an ambitious shot from long distance but Dan Lincoln was equal to it. Ryan Sammons tried his luck from long range but Lincoln denied him with a save to his right on 12 minutes. On 18 minutes Adebowale knocked a chance wide of the post after a header from El-Abd bounced to him in the box.
Ljubucic and Richard Gilot set up Jimmy Muitt. The striker poked the ball beyond goalkeeper Lucas Lidakevicious but couldn’t quite get to it to beat the defender. Then Muitt's corner was headed over by Keaton Wood. Lincoln pulled off a fantastic save to keep out Honesty's low strike, pushing it around the right post on 23 minutes.
Ljubicic won a corner on the left for Bognor but nothing came of it. Then Muitt's swirling free-kick was missed by Ljubicic in the air. On 42 minutes a loose ball appeared to be El-Abd's but instead he committed a foul and a free-kick was awarded. El-Abd received a yellow card for the challenge. HT 0-1
The Rocks seemed more positive in the early stages of the second half. Ljubicic had a shot blocked from inside the box then Muitt’s resulting corner was met by the diving head of Kristian Campbell but his effort was easily saved by the goalkeeper.
Adebowale's long ball over the defence saw Campbell go to ground but the ball bounced through to Lidakevicius as the referee ignored the penalty claims. Joe Christou played in Michael Clark for ET and his pass back to Christou saw him beat his marker before shooting across the goal and narrowly wide. Montel Ageymang's corner was punched clear by Lincoln.
Ollie Pearce replaced an under-par Adebowale on 59 minutes. Bognor sprang on the counter attack in a rare move forward. Pearce cut the ball back to Muitt who turned before hitting the ball low and forcing the goalkeeper into a diving save on 65 minutes. Muitt was clearly impeded by Sammons on the right leading up to this and the referee allowed playto go on and brought it back for a yellow card for the visiting full-back on 69 minutes.
On 71 minutes Pearce's floated corner eventually fell to Muitt who backheeled it back straight at the goalkeeper. A minute later Ben Swallow replaced Gilot. Bognor had two great chances to score on 73 minutes. First Muitt cut the ball back for Pearce, who slammed it at goal and forced a parried save from the goalkeeper. Then Doug Tuck on the rebound also had his effort blocked.
Whyte went in the book for a challenge on 81 minutes even though it looked like he had won the ball. The Rocks' final substitution saw Ibra Sekajja come on for Ljubicic on 85 minutes. Higgins went into the book for time-wasting at his own free-kick. Christou's strike from the set play flew well over the bar.
In the 90th minute Higgins went to ground in the box. A penalty was awarded despite calls from the home support claiming he dived. Higgins slammed the spot-kick high into the net in stoppage time to end a miserable game for Bognor.
The Rocks know time is running out - and know Tuesday's home game with Welling (7.45pm) is very much a must-win affair.
Bognor: Lincoln, Whyte, Campbell, Tuck, Adebowale (Pearce 59), El-Abd, Gilot (Swallow 72), Block, Muitt, Ljubicic (Sekajja 85), Wood. Subs not used: Charman, Scutt.
Att - 402